Car washes, gas stations showing interest in undeveloped Irving-Central parcel; some residents recommend retail-residential project there, as Alderman Sposato holds meeting seeking suggestions
by BRIAN NADIG
Car wash and gas station companies are showing the most interest in building on a 35,500-square-foot former car lot at the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, according to MB Real Estate corporate services vice president David Kimball.
Kimball said that the property, which is for sale for $2.85 million, is his “most active listing” and that “it’s all car washes and gas stations. … We’re getting calls three, four times a week from car washes,” he said at an April 12 community meeting hosted by Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th).
Sposato said that the meeting was a “brainstorming session” to get a better idea of what the community would like to see built on the parcel, which had been used by car dealerships for decades. The property is currently fenced off.
Sposato said that he doubts the community would want an auto-centric development given the opposition five years ago to a planned Starbucks Coffee with a drive-through on the site.
Starbucks received the zoning relief it needed for the project, but the company may have been scared away due to the intensity of the opposition, which included traffic concerns and calls for more independently owned businesses in the community, according to Sposato.
Sposato recently had the parcel downzoned from C2-1 to the more restrictive B1-1, which does not permit car washes and gas stations. Under, C2-1, car washes are allowed, and a gas station is permitted if the Zoning Board of Appeals were to issue a special use.
Portage Park resident and former 38th Ward alderman Tom Allen attended the meeting and said that the downzoning means that any buyer likely will have to get the support of area residents. “That’s a huge victory for the community,“ said Allen, who while alderman downzoned several undeveloped properties.
Some of the dozen residents at the meeting said that a retail-residential development made sense for the parcel, given its location across from Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave. They added that the park would serve as an amenity for tenants.
Kimball said that only residential developer who has inquired about the property expressed interest in building a “100 percent affordable” building.
One resident said that she would support an all-affordable housing complex on the site if a “quality” developer were involved, while another resident voiced support for 30 percent of the units to be affordable. However, one homeowner said that he would not want “public housing.”
The zoning code requires at least 20 percent of units be designated as affordable, although developers can seek a partial buyout of the requirement. Affordable units are offered at below-market rate rents.
Kimball said that any type of residential component raises issues of density.
“Inflation is real. … You need economy of scale,” he said. “For a nice development, … it’s going to have to be bigger.”
Sposato said that the parcel may become part of the 30th Ward as part of the remapping of ward boundaries and that, if so, he would provide information gathered at the meeting to Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th). The winning map is expected be chosen on a referendum on the June 28 primary election ballot, unless the City Council approves a map by May 19.